Daredevil (2003)

I don't plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

I don’t plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (well, this is his best movie, sad as that may be)

Written by: Johnson wrote the screenplay based on the Marvel Comics character of Daredevil

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith and Leland Orser

What it’s about: a man struck with blindness as a result of a childhood accident finds his other senses are greatly heightened and uses those abilities to fight crime as both a super-hero and a lawyer

What I liked: To be clear, this was the Director’s Cut that I watched.  It’s a bit longer and in some cases it actually makes the film better.  Most of the action scenes are decent, as well as the special effects.  The costuming of the characters was a fairly decent translation from the comic books, as well.  I liked Affleck’s performance, as well as Colin Farrell’s enormously intense scenery chewing as Bullseye.  It’s also a fairly dark comic book movie, and I think it was actually ahead of its time.  If this movie were made today, it would be of a higher quality with more attention paid to the darkness of the character, as modern audiences are more accepting of those themes than they were 10 years ago.

What I disliked: At times it feels like a comic book, and that’s not a great thing when it comes to the execution of the story.  Pointless scenes featuring action hero poses, and lighting choices that make no sense when you take into account the fact that the character is goddamn blind.  Some scenes are positively goofy.  There was also the sense that – much like Batman & Robin – the story was trying to cram in as much Daredevil history as possible which just led to it being somewhat scatterbrained.  If you’re doing a proper Daredevil movie series, you don’t introduce Elektra until at least the second movie.  Also, the music choices for the movie just reeked of attempted cross-marketing, featuring two flash-in-the-pan Evanescence songs.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sort of.  It is a decent enough comic book movie, but unlike the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, it doesn’t transcend the genre.  All that being said, it is still a guilty pleasure of mine.

Rating: 3 / 5

See?  Goofy.

See? Goofy.

Juno (2007)

It has been nearly five years since Juno was released, and pretty much everything I said about it back then is how I felt when I was re-watching it. So instead of just re-hashing my thoughts, here’s my well-written review from then, rather than the rambling short review I usually write up now.  Enjoy!

Every year in December, major studios tend to release a lot of smaller “human” films that seem like a hollow attempt to garner Academy Award nominations come February.  In some cases the movies themselves are actually quite good, but would have failed to attract any attention at any other time of the year.  In the case of Juno, well it’s a bit of a mixed bag to tell the truth.  If Fox Searchlight Studios would have released the movie outside of the December awards attraction window, most of the focus probably would have been on the subject matter of the film, rather than Ellen Page’s performance as the titular character . It’s not that it’s even that controversial of a topic these days, but the religious right more than likely would have had a field day with a movie about a 16-year-old girl that has premarital sex because she’s bored and gets knocked up because of it and eventually decides to have the baby.

Directed by Jason Reitman and written by first-timer Diablo Cody (Ed. note: she won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for this movie), Juno is all about Juno MacGuff (Page) and the impact her decisions regarding her soon-to-be born child will have on her life and the lives of those around her.  Juno’s a quirky and somewhat crass girl, and there’s no indication exactly how she came to be that way based on the level-headedness of her father Mac (Simmons) and her step-mother Bren (Janney).  Her best friend Leah (Thirlby) is somewhat odd, but only if you find the idea of a high school girl who is horny for her teachers an odd thing.  Nowadays, that sort of thing is such a regular occurence that Britney Spears’ 16-year-old sister can get knocked up by a producer on her TV show and there isn’t too much outrage.  Well, aside from the religious right that I’m not a part of that is.

The comparison has to be made, so here it is: yes, the character of Juno is so reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite that they might as well have titled the project Joséphine Dynamite.  Juno and her family life aren’t nearly as strange as the Dynamites were, but she’s definitely not what anyone would really consider to be a “normal” teenage girl character in the movies.  The structure of the film is slightly comparable to Napoleon Dynamite, but only real idiots would say that it’s a rip-off of the movie.  Sure Michael Cera’s character of Paulie Bleeker is an awkward high schooler, but it’s Michael Cera for god’s sake.  He essentially plays the same awkward character in every movie, just with subtle nuances added or diminished depending on the genre of the project.

It’s funny that I watched Juno almost right after I watched Waitress, as the characters played by Ellen Page and Keri Russell in both films are startlingly similar.  In my books, Russell deserves an Oscar win for her performance, and I think Page will probably have to settle for a nomination (Ed. note: she was nominated, Keri Russell wasn’t).  A lot of critics have been comparing Juno to last year’s Little Miss Sunshine as the feel-good movie of the year, and while I do see it, I don’t necessarily agree with it.  Sunshine was an ensemble cast performance extraordinaire, whereas Juno is pretty much a one-girl show.  Page is awesome, but the overall feel of Juno is too uneven for it to be considered as an excellent movie.

The supporting cast of Juno is tremendous, especially with the way the characters of Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons’ parents are written and the real way they’re portrayed.  Jennifer Garner is surprisingly top notch as well, same with the patented Michael Cera performance.  Jason Bateman was probably the highlight of the movie for me, to the point where I actually sympathized with the decisions his character made and was kind of angry at the movie for almost manipulating me into viewing him as a villain-type.  True, his actions aren’t of the typical good guy variety, but I can honestly see where his character was coming from.  In the end, Juno is a very good movie, and just slightly short of true greatness.

4 / 5

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)

Did the world really need a new re-imagining of “A Christmas Carol”?  I say nay, but I control nothing, so instead Ghosts of Girlfriends Past makes a staggering $102 million worldwide and movies like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang fly under Joe Multiplex’s radar.  It’s really not fair to compare those two films as they are vastly different but dammit, I just read that total gross and was furious!  FURIOUS I tell you.

One of the most off-putting aspects of GFs Past is that at least two of the ghosts aren’t exactly ghosts at all, unless Emma Stone’s character died some weird death that was 1) unexplained or 2) glossed over because who wants to think about that when we’re putting Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner together! or 3) she wasn’t exactly dead but that would require more exposition.  Fuck exposition in a rom-com!

I don’t know what to tell you, the leads pull off their parts alright, some of the supporting cast are decent, and some are probably embarrassed to have been roped into the movie, but hey, MONEY!

2 / 5